The start of summer feasting... what to grow, sow, forage and cook

In her monthly column, A Year in Flavour, KATE RYAN tells us what to grow, sow and forage at this time of year
The start of summer feasting... what to grow, sow, forage and cook

Some produce from the garden that Kate has harvested.  Picture: Kate Ryan

JUNE is my favourite month of the year, the charming month of summer!

I love it for the impossibly long evenings, when there is light in the sky even at 11pm, and the first birds begin singing with first light at 4am.

Hedgerows have been taken over by the riotous pink of foxgloves and intense sunny yellow of buttercups. Although the extended cold weather has knocked back progress in my veg patch by at least two weeks, it seems to have enormously benefitted the flowers.

When it comes to shopping for seasonal fruit and veg this month, there is a noticeable uptick in the variety of crops available. 

The first peas meet with the end of an epic asparagus season; and as strawberries and raspberries come into their own, we say goodbye to rhubarb.

Then there is the happy coincidence of gooseberries and elderflower appearing at the same time, one of the most harmonious flavour pairings of the year.

From here-on-in, meals become lighter too. I enjoy indulging in salads of all kinds, the obvious and not so obvious; and dare to pair savoury and sweet flavours together.

The start of our abundant season has arrived in all its deliciously lavish glory!

GROW IT YOURSELF

My little veg patch is two to three weeks behind schedule thanks to the weather, but that’s the challenge of small plot growing out in the open air.

Hope springs eternal, as do my potatoes, which continue to put on healthy growth. The broad beans have begun producing pods too, although still too tiny to pick, and the mange tout appear as if by magic overnight! I’m growing a variety called ‘Shiraz’ that are aubergine in colour, and love eating them raw sliced into salads and dressed with a simple lemon and oil dressing. The peas are finally podding, too, so hopefully this is a harvest that will pick up speed.

New into the veg patch are kohlrabi seedlings — my first time growing them. Crunchy and peppery, somewhere between radish and turnip in flavour, they won’t be ready to harvest until autumn. Late summer salads have also made it into the bed, to take over from my spring salads that are trying to go to seed now that the warmer weather is here.

Finally, my herb box I planted up last month is abundant, and proving delightful to cut fistfuls of fresh herbs, particularly coriander, as I want them — and the flavour can’t be beaten.

SHOP FOR IT

Bushby’s Strawberries are a near neighbour to me, and I’m like a small child every time I make the short journey down the road to their Strawberry Shack to pick up a punnet of farm fresh strawberries and raspberries — if ever there was a scent of summer, it is this!

Change things up by using these fruits in different ways. Try my Ricotta and Raspberry Cannoli, or what about bridging the sweet savoury divide with my recipe for Fried Halloumi with Strawberries and Basil Sauce? Both surprisingly delicious!

The other great fruit of June is the gooseberry. My favourite way to eat them is to make a compote flavoured with elderflower and use that to make a Gooseberry Fool with custard and cream. See recipe below.

Veg wise, look out for the last of the asparagus and the first summer cauliflower and broccoli. Globe Artichokes come into season now too, a vegetable I adore to eat but hate to prepare, so I usually just wait to see them on restaurant menus and indulge then.

Garlic Scapes are here in abundance now too, after the cold weather set back harvesting. Check out my recipe below for Garlic Scape, Broad Bean and Labneh Dip below.

Pork is a great meat for this time of year, particularly lean tenderloin served with young, sweet vegetables; or shoulder cooked low, slow, and pulled then dressed in a sticky sweet sauce and stuffed into a bun with slaw and pickles. Rainbow trout and summer line-caught mackerel are favourites, too.

FORAGE FOR IT

June is synonymous with elderflower, and, along with strawberries, they are the scent of summer. Pick on a dry day, and, if you’ve had enough of Elderflower Cordial, try making Elderflower Vinegar instead!

I use it in salad dressings, but also instead of white vinegar when making meringues; see method below.

Now is the time to get out among the wild garlic and collect seed heads for pickling. 

These tiny green seeds provide a burst of zing to late summer dishes, and are perfect added at the last minute to a lemon butter sauce for fish.

Also, watch for Vetch, a member of the pea family. Its purple flowers, leaves and stems are all edible and can be eaten raw or steamed and have a pleasing pea-like flavour. The seed pods are also edible but only after cooking — handle and cook the same way as dried kidney beans.

If you’re lucky enough to have wild strawberries growing near you, hunt for them. They grow all around me here, but I never have any luck harvesting them — the birds and little creatures get to them before me, but that’s OK!

Rock Samphire. Picture: Kate Ryan

Rock Samphire. Picture: Kate Ryan
Rock Samphire. Picture: Kate Ryan

Wild Japanese Dog Rose. Picture: Kate Ryan

If you go down to the woods today, keep an eye out for wood sorrel. 

The lime-green coloured heart shaped leaves produce tiny white flowers that are yellow inside. The leaf and flower are edible and give a delightful tart flavour somewhere between lemon and Granny Smith apple. Great in salads, but also as a wild edible garnish on cakes.

All around the coast now are dog roses of all kinds in bloom. The bright fiery pink roses are Japanese Dog Roses with their insanely romantic aroma. That intensity makes them a great option for rose water — a simple infusion of rose petals and water, for use when I make Baklava or Rice Pudding. But it can also be imbibed or used as a facial tonic.

Finally, keep an eye out for Rock Samphire growing along coastlines. As the name suggests, it grows on rocks, has a pleasing aniseed-lemon-salty flavour and is our native samphire as opposed to the Marsh Samphire which is typically available for sale. Steam, sauté, or bake with fish and other aromatics en papillote to retain its delicate flavour.

Ricotta and Raspberry Cannoli Picture: Kate Ryan
Ricotta and Raspberry Cannoli Picture: Kate Ryan

COOK IT

Ricotta and Raspberry Cannoli

You can pick up ready made cannoli tubes from your local supermarket or Italian deli. I prefer them to have a chocolate coating, but they are available plain too. My recipe adds whipped cream to increase volume and lighten the mix too. They are great as a summery dessert, or as an indulgent snack at elevenses.

Ingredients (makes 10 filled Cannoli)

200g Macroom Buffalo Ricotta

200g thick double cream, whipped

1 tbsp fresh lemon verbena, or 1 tsp lemon zest

½ tbsp fresh mint

125g raspberries, quartered

Cannoli shells, ready made.

Method:

  • Place the ricotta into a bowl and gently break it down a little with a spatula. Gently fold in the whipped cream a little at a time so as not to lose volume. Add the herbs and raspberries and fold through until well mixed.
  • Prepare a piping bag and fill with the mixture. Generously pipe into the cannoli shells and serve.
Halloumi Strawberry and Basil Salad Picture: Kate Ryan
Halloumi Strawberry and Basil Salad Picture: Kate Ryan

Fried Halloumi with Strawberries and Basil Sauce

I’m slow to refer to this sauce as a pesto, mainly because it’s missing a vital component in any pesto: garlic. I was inspired to make it after seeing a similar flavour pairing on the Instagram page of Good Day Deli. I love halloumi, and I know strawberries pair well with both basil and salty cheese, so I decided to make my own version and the results are delicious!

This would work as a small starter or double the quantity and serve with bread for a refreshing lunch.

Also, note that, since Halloumi has been awarded PGI status, Macroom Buffalo Halloumi has had to swiftly rebrand as Buffaloumi.

Ingredients (served 2 as a starter or small plate)

20g fresh basil

1 tbsp fresh French tarragon (optional)

3 tbsp pine nuts

10g parmesan (easier to cut from a wedge then cut into small pieces for the blender)

Zest of 1 lemon, juice of half

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp sea salt, ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

180g block of Macroom Buffaloumi

Strawberries, hulled and quartered

1 tbsp hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Method:

  • Into a blender place basil, pine nuts, parmesan, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and blend until smooth, approximately 3 minutes. Check for seasoning, adjust if necessary - remember the cheese will be salty.
  • Slice the block of Buffaloumi in half lengthways. Season both sides of each piece with a little olive oil and a twist of black pepper.
  • Slice the strawberries and set aside.
  • Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat. Add the Buffaloumi to the pan and allow to cook until golden brown on both sides.
  • Onto a plate, spoon a generous amount of basil sauce. Top with Buffaloumi, and scatter over strawberries and chopped hazelnuts. Garnish with small basil leaves.
KATE RYAN Year of Flavour Elderflower
KATE RYAN Year of Flavour Elderflower

Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool

To make this desert extra speedy, cheat a little and use a really good quality ready made vanilla custard.

Make the compote by cooking a punnet of gooseberries with 250g sugar and 300ml water.

Infuse with the flavour of elderflower by tying a couple of blooms up in a piece of muslin and hanging it into the saucepan as the compote cooks. Jar up the compote and keep it in the fridge.

Ingredients

Homemade Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote Whipped cream Thick vanilla custard (homemade or shop bought)

White chocolate

Method:

Into individual glass tumblers, spoon individual layers of cream, custard, and compote. Try and get in two layers and finish with cream. Top with grated white chocolate and serve.

Garlic Scape, Broad Bean and Labneh Dip

Scapes are the shoot produced by a growing bulb of garlic that, if not picked, will form a flower.

Depending on the garlic variety the scape is growing from, they can be fiery or mild. If you like searing hot garlic flavour, use scapes raw, or for a much milder flavour blanch scapes for 30 seconds in boiling water first.

This is great as a dip with crudites, spread on bread topped with charcuterie, or dabbed into pasta dishes for an extra punch of flavour.

Ingredients

Half a standard bunch of garlic scapes (either raw or blanched)

300g broad beans (weight of pods; remove from pods, blanch, and remove bean skin)

100g labneh (or substitute for feta or Greek-style natural yogurt)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tbsp fresh mint

2 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Smoked sea salt and black pepper Splash of cold water (may need more).

Method:

  • Place all the ingredients into a blender with a high-speed setting and blend until completely smooth. This may take up to five minutes, or more.
  • Check for seasoning and consistency. Add, a little at a time if needed, more salt for balance, or more water for a smoother consistency.

Elderflower Vinegar

Making your own elderflower vinegar is so simple, but the trick is using a really good quality vinegar.

Personally, I prefer to use organic apple cider vinegar, but no need to go for one with the “mother” as it won’t survive the cooking process. A good quality white pickling vinegar is good too, but stay away from malt, balsamic or pre-flavoured vinegars for this.

Ingredients (makes 500ml)

500ml of organic apple cider vinegar

5 large heads of elderflower

Method:

  • Put the vinegar and elderflower heads into a saucepan and gently heat until just below simmering point.
  • Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and leave to cool and infuse ideally overnight.
  • Next day, strain the mixture through a fine sieve lined with a piece of muslin and pour into a sterilised bottle.

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